For readers in central New Mexico, I need your help.
From a reader:
I am probably in the very smallest of small minorities reading your blog — I’m an atheist. However, for some reason I happen to be a bit of a social conservative, and really enjoy reading your discussions of tradition and Catholic rites. For the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of fun reading your articles as they come in through Google Reader.
For some time, I’ve been toying with the idea of finding a Church to attend. Mainly because the people that I respect tend to be religious. [See what a good example can provoke?]
I think that abortion is obviously something evil, sex outside of marriage prevents a fulfilling life, that it’s hard work to be a moral human being, and that Good isn’t relative. Fellow atheists generally don’t feel this way, and they also tend to have silly ideas about the perfectibility of human nature. Besides, I was impressed by the Christian congregation I attended in my youth, and haven’t felt the same sort of sense of community for many years.
I tried to attend a Lutheran church a couple of years ago. I didn’t really feel like I got a great deal from it. Part of it was that I tried to be serious about what I was doing and checked out a book from the library that consisted of several arguments between Erasmus and Luther. I was much more impressed by Erasmus’ writings, and still am. [Good choice.]
I’m interested in finding out more about the Catholic Church, but am a bit worried about walking around the block to meet the pastor at local church … I did a quick Google search for his name and don’t know anything about him beyond the fact that he’s a big fan of Andrew Greeley books, has been quoted in the newspaper saying that abortion is just one issue among a spectrum of "life issues" like capital punishment (not a particularly convincing statement to me), and has also been quoted saying that some Cardinal’s recent statement about evolution was overdoing things. I’m not sure how to put it best, but while I’m attracted to the Catholic Church’s stand on certain issues, I’m not particularly interested in half-baked 1960’s anything-goes theology (the Unitarians are better at that, and wouldn’t even mind the atheism bit). [Well said!]
I’d appreciate your advice on what I should do, if you have the time.
First,… how very impressed I am by this fellow’s journey. I too am a convert. It was a combination of curiosity and the beauty of liturgy which then took me on an intellectual and affective path into the Church. I remember distinctly knowing that the "Catholic thing" had to be confronted if I was going to be intellectually honest with myself, have a good conscience about the questions I was raising.
Second, I don’t know many priests in that area of the US. Perhaps you readers could E-MAIL a few names of solid priests who can answer hard questions with patience and charity, (some gray hair is preferred) which I could in turn share with this guy. DON’T POST THEM HERE. E-MAIL them to me.
Third, I could recommend some reading, such as Fr. John Hardon’s catechism, which is what the late Msgr. Schuler used to hook my mind and keep me reading…. but I won’t give a list.
Fourth, I am always interested in how people handle those moments when they are faced with these questions. Remember: if Christians are at times tempted to doubt, atheists are tempted to believe. More than tempted. Doubts of Christians come from our weakness, our fallen nature or the flaws in our instruction, as well as the enemy of the soul. Doubts of atheists come from the need we have written into our being, as images of God.
Fifth, I will present also the challenge presented by wiser people than I. In one of his last public addresses 1 April 2005 in Subiaco, Italy, the day before John Paul II died, and thus shortly before being elected Pope, Joseph Card. Ratzinger issued a challenge to modern man. He issued a paradoxical challenge to "live as if God exists" whether one believes in Him or not….velut si Deus daretur… as if God is a given fact.
in my capacity as believer, I would like to make a proposal to the secularists. At the time of the Enlightenment there was an attempt to understand and define the essential moral norms, saying that they would be valid "etsi Deus non daretur," even in the case that God did not exist. In the opposition of the confessions and in the pending crisis of the image of God, an attempt was made to keep the essential values of morality outside the contradictions and to seek for them an evidence that would render them independent of the many divisions and uncertainties of the different philosophies and confessions. In this way, they wanted to ensure the basis of coexistence and, in general, the foundations of humanity. At that time, it was thought to be possible, as the great deep convictions created by Christianity to a large extent remained. But this is no longer the case. [As our election cycle is demonstrating.]
The search for such a reassuring certainty, which could remain uncontested beyond all differences, failed. Not even the truly grandiose effort of Kant was able to create the necessary shared certainty. Kant had denied that God could be known in the realm of pure reason, but at the same time he had represented God, freedom and immortality as postulates of practical reason, without which, coherently, for him no moral behavior was possible.
Does not today’s situation of the world make us think perhaps that he might have been right? I would like to express it in a different way: The attempt, carried to the extreme, to manage human affairs disdaining God completely leads us increasingly to the edge of the abyss, to man’s ever greater isolation from reality. We must reverse the axiom of the Enlightenment and say: Even one who does not succeed in finding the way of accepting God, should, nevertheless, seek to live and to direct his life "veluti si Deus daretur," as if God existed. This is the advice Pascal gave to his friends who did not believe. In this way, no one is limited in his freedom, but all our affairs find the support and criterion of which they are in urgent need.
Above all, that of which we are in need at this moment in history are men who, through an enlightened and lived faith, render God credible in this world. The negative testimony of Christians who speak about God and live against him, has darkened God’s image and opened the door to disbelief. We need men who have their gaze directed to God, to understand true humanity. We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of God, and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up to the hearts of others.
Intellectual and affective challenge:
Pursue these questions as if God exists… velut si Deus daretur.
How about South-Central New Mexico… Soccorro area?